Throwback Thursday: Puberty

Good afternoon, everyone! Well, as I’m writing this, it’s almost noon. See, I got an extra magical migraine yesterday, and spent 99% of the day sleeping through it. So for a change, this post is being written on the spot! And to help me, I got my good friend Sophie (also a loyal reader) to help me decide what today should be about. And, for whatever reason… The result is my history with puberty.

Puberty is no fun for anyone- but it’s especially not that great when your hormones start going out of whack and your mental health takes a dive. I started my first red river (aka my period) when I was eleven- but I’d already stopped growing at the tender age of ten years old. But the growth lacking isn’t really puberty related- it is, but it isn’t. For now, let’s focus on a fun story: my first period.

It was the middle of the night. I had woken up thinking I just needed to use the toilet, and so merrily made my way there from my bedroom (which wasn’t hard, since they were both at the end of that particular hallway). I pulled down my pants and such, as you do when you need to pee, but… What I saw in my underwear and my toilet wasn’t urine. It was blood- a hell of a lot of blood.

My dad and I were living with his parents at the time. This was because he had to get neck surgery and there were concerns about me getting to school and all that jazz with him not able to do all that much during the recovery time. Plus, we were losing our condo. So, his parents took us in.

Now let me give you a quick landscape of the house: it’s a big ranch house, that doubles as a mother/daughter. It’s one floor (technically there’s a basement, but that matters little), with three bedrooms in the main part of the house, one of which was being used as an office across from my room, and then a quasi ‘apartment’, which is where dad stayed. My grandma was very particular about separating us because of our codependence… Or at least I like to pretend that’s why.

Anyway! I ran across the house and into the apartment with more speed than I knew I could muster, managing not to drip the blood en route by awkwardly wearing my clothes again. I was in a panic as I knocked on my dad’s door, who immediately answered with worry. I told him what I believed was happening.

“Dad, dad! Something’s wrong- my butt’s bleeding!”

You heard that correctly guys. The granddaughter of a nurse and the daughter of people with plenty of health issues to spare automatically assumed the blood was coming from her behind. I was in middle school- it just wasn’t the year we took sex ed. So I basically knew absolutely nothing.

Luckily, my father knew right away what was likely going on. Unlike me, he grew up around a lot of women going through puberty- rather, he had three sisters go through it around him as a child, and his mother was always explaining this stuff to him as much as to the girls. She just decided not to bother me with the details until it was my time.

So, knowing his mother would be able to better help me deal with the issue, he carried me to his mother’s room, where we knocked on the door. He told her straight out I got my period, and the two worked together to calm me down. Following the discovery and my grandma giving me some pads to start with, I got a two hour lecture about how the female reproductive system works. Yep, two hours was all I needed. Mostly because, if I recall, it was a school night and she had me up until 1AM.

Of course, that’s not the end of my woes with my period- and not just because I kept having to get them. I think your teenage years count as well, so I’m going to share another period story- which will also tell you a shocking fact of why my grandmother kept my dad and I separated in reality.

I missed my period one month. I was a little confused, but I was told it was fairly normal to miss a period every so often. However, it wasn’t just one month I missed. I forget how old I was- 15, I think? I’m pretty sure it was actually after we left my grandparents’ house to live in an apartment in town. Anyway, not important. The important bit is I stopped getting my period for about 4-5 months. My grandma, concerned, took me to the OBGYN. She made me get a pregnancy test despite my regularly telling her I was still a virgin, as my grandmother apparently had this weird idea my dad was doing dirty things to me. It was concluded I wasn’t pregnant (since I had never had sex)…

Okay wait, no, those two situations were separate. I don’t know why I went to the OBGYN the first time to get a pregnancy test anymore. I just know that happened.

Anyway, I did go to the OBGYN after four months of missing my periods. I was eighteen, however. I remember it more clearly now. My therapist at the time joked I might be the next virgin mary. I didn’t take the joke well, because I was seriously scared shitless.

Anywho! Apparently it wasn’t the weirdest thing my doctor ever saw. She simply gave me a week of birth control to try to restart my reproductive system- which worked! I got my period right after! But then, I stopped getting it again… I think this was the five months. I was diagnosed with ‘secondary amenorrhea’, which basically meant I had no period as a symptom. I was put on regular birth control, and got my period under control again.

It’s been many years- almost a decade- since then. In that time I stopped all my meds from side effects that I couldn’t tie to one medicine, but the birth control apparently got my system in regular functioning order, because I got my period fairly regularly. I’ve since been put back on birth control to help deal with other issues regarding my hormones: primarily my PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and migraines caused by hormones. I’m on the depo shot, which is a shot you get every three months. It has no estrogen in it, which is why my doctor chose it- apparently with my migraines and stuff, the last thing I want is extra estrogen. She told me I could get heavy periods for a while on it, but so far, I haven’t gotten my period since starting the shots. I also have less cramps during those times than I used to, so I count that as a win.

There’s more to puberty than just menstruating, though. Other things happened to my body: I stopped growing, started getting hair all over that I didn’t recognize, started sweating more, and my chest grew, which led to even more sweating. I thankfully got my grandmother’s breasts, over my mothers’, which my dad thinks mom is probably jealous of since she saw me once after they’d grown in. Mom had ‘droopy nipples’. She was otherwise flat as a board. Her self-consciousness over this is likely why I as raised entirely on formula as an infant.

The worst thing about puberty, I think, was the fact my mental health problems started around then. My brain chemicals went all nuts, and by the time I a teen, I was showing very clear signs of bipolar. I was often having spurts of sleeping 3 hours a night maximum, yet being productive all day long. Then I’d get depressed and need more hugs than usual. I think part of the reason my grandmother had those delusions about my dad and I is because as a teen, while he was bedridden, I still went to curl up in his bed next to him for comfort. You know, like a child afraid of the ghosts in the closet. If I was down or scared, I crawled into dad’s bed to feel safe. The fact that I would be in his bed was enough for my grandma to get those weird thoughts.

Anyway, I think that’s enough rambling at you for today. What about puberty hit you the hardest? For me it was clearly my period- but what about you guys? Share some of your tales in the comments, and maybe we can share our current woes together too! I promise you, puberty may be over, but it still effects me plenty. I’m sure plenty of us are affected long term by it, too!

Until next time!